Work, Pensions and Equality

Labour’s Vision

Labour believes in taking the action needed to secure a more equal society, to cut inequality in income and wealth and to achieve full employment and security at work.

The full employment the next Labour Government will aspire to will focus not just on the total number of jobs but on the quality, security and pay of those jobs too. To achieve that, we will set out plans to create a million good quality jobs across our regions and nations and guarantee a decent job for all.

We will develop policies that achieve greater security and stability for workers across the whole of the UK. That means a social security system that, like the NHS, is there for us all when we need it. We want to build a social security system that treats people of all ages and backgrounds with dignity and respect, one which promotes health and safety and provides proper support at every stage of life.

Labour has a proud record of championing equality and tackling discrimination in whatever form it takes. We want to embed equality in every policy, including the gender-proofing of policy. We want to build an inclusive, respectful and tolerant society. We will take the bold action that’s needed to reduce inequalities and protect the rights of all citizens from prejudice and hate.

The issues

This year, the National Policy Forum (NPF) has identified poverty and inequality, social security and equalities as the three priority areas for the Work, Pensions and Equality Policy Commission.

Tackling poverty and inequality

There is overwhelming evidence that we, as a society, do better when poverty and inequalities across people and regions of the UK are reduced. However, over the course of the last year, child poverty has increased by 200,000. In that same time, the Government has abolished child poverty targets which were brought in by the last Labour Government and which played a key role in reducing child poverty.

There is also a growing crisis of in-work poverty under the Conservative Government. One in eight workers is now in poverty and it is no longer the case that work necessarily provides a guaranteed route out of poverty. According to recent analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, there are 19 million people in the UK living below a minimum income standard.

We cannot afford to be complacent over levels of support for older people and disabled people, who are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. It’s therefore essential that steps are taken to reduce the number of older people and disabled people living in poverty.

The social security system that Labour builds will reduce inequality, tackle barriers to work and provide adequate support to those who cannot work. In order to achieve that, child poverty, pensioner poverty and in-work poverty must be reduced and we must consider the possible effects Brexit could have on poverty and inequality.

Questions
  • How can we tackle the growing crisis of in-work poverty?
  • What steps can be taken to reduce the number of disabled people living in poverty?
  • How do we reduce growing levels of child poverty?
  • What are the barriers to young people realising their full potential?
  • How can we ensure progress on pensioner poverty isn’t eroded?
  • How can we ensure Brexit doesn’t have a negative impact on poverty and inequality?

Social security and pensions for all

Living standards and wages have come under great pressure and the Government’s changes to social security have added to that pressure. While it’s welcome that the number of people in work has increased in recent years, this is not the experience in all parts of the country and for all population groups. On top of these labour market inequalities, millions of British workers are struggling to make ends meet because, even if they are in work, the jobs they have are too often insecure and low paid.

Job insecurity and low pay have increased under the Conservative Government. One in five employees in Britain are now stuck in low-paid jobs and more than six million workers are paid below the Living Wage, nearly a quarter of all employees. Meanwhile, there are nearly a million workers employed on a zero-hours contract, more than four million people in insecure work and many part-time workers, the vast majority of whom are women, need to increase their current hours of work in order to get by.

Over recent years, the debate around social security has been falsely characterised as ‘strivers versus skivers’. Labour wants to bring an end to this divisive rhetoric and build popular support for Britain’s system of social security, which, like the National Health Service, is there for us all when we need it.

To achieve that, social security needs to work for people of all ages and backgrounds, including for those with different requirements employed on different types of contracts and who may find it more difficult to access work. It needs to ensure pensioners can retire with dignity and that future generations of pensioners are encouraged and supported to save for their retirement, building on automatic enrolment.

We want to see Britain’s system of social security made fairer, particularly in respect of the Government’s sanctions regime and Work Capability Assessments as well as their accelerated increases to women’s state pension age and to changes to the work allowances of Universal Credit.

Questions
  • How do we build the case for a fair social security system that’s there for us all in times of need?
  • How do we make jobs more secure and better paid and improve in-work support?
  • How do we ensure social security and pensions are made fairer and don’t unfairly penalise women?
  • How can social security help tackle inequalities of wealth and income across all people and regions of the UK?
  • How do we encourage and support people to save more for their retirement, particularly for young people?
  • How do we improve social security and support into and at work for disabled people?
  • How do we ensure self-employed workers and those in precarious work don’t fall through the gaps of social security?

Equalities - a more equal and tolerant society

Labour believes in creating a more equal and tolerant society that treats people of all backgrounds with dignity and respect. To achieve that, equality should be at the heart of every Labour policy. Labour is the party of equality and all major equality advances have come from Labour. We will continue to champion and strengthen the Equality Act, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and fairness and equality at work and in our communities.

The Government has failed in its obligations to publish Equalities Assessments of their policies. The suspicion is that’s because such assessments reveal disproportionate impact on women, disabled people, or Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. As an example, analysis from the House of Commons Library suggests 86 per cent of net savings from the Government’s tax and benefit changes have fallen on women.

The next Labour Government will close disparities of income and wealth. At 18 per cent, the gender pay gap remains far too high and while the Government has taken some steps in the right direction on measuring it, Labour will take bold action to close the gender pay gap.

All forms of discrimination damage communities, workplaces and life chances. Tackling discrimination goes hand in hand with addressing the lack of diversity in public life. We need people of all backgrounds and ages included, including having the diversity of women, working class and BAME people’s voices heard, and our communities accessible and inclusive to disabled people. We have a proud history of securing rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) people and of opposing homophobia and transphobia. However, there’s still a long way to go and we won’t stop fighting until we achieve real LGBT equality.

Questions
  • How do we put equality at the heart of all of Labour’s policies and champion Labour’s proud achievements relating to equalities?
  • How do we end unfair pay disparities and close the gender pay gap?
  • How do we work to end growing levels of maternity discrimination in the workplace?
  • How do we tackle racism and discrimination on the basis of faith, gender, sexual orientation, age, class, disability and gender identity, alongside improving diversity in public life?
  • What steps can we take to improve equality and equal rights for all, and specifically for LGBT and disabled people?
  • How do we strengthen the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission?